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Monday, November 26, 2007

The search for women

The delay in selecting a Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate list for the 2009 European elections makes the Western Mail this morning. They report that the process has been suspended because all of the five applicants are men, at least one of whom comes from an ethnic minority. Three women have been approached to stand and they are currently considering that request.

For some reason this decision has generated much excitement at the Western Mail. Their editorial effectively accuses us of excessive and unnecessary political correctness:

Press-ganging women into putting their names forward, as the Welsh Liberal Democrats now appear to be doing, is an extraordinary way to deal with perceived discrimination.

What is the point of having a woman on a candidates’ shortlist if she is only there because she is a woman, not because she has an ambition to be the candidate?

It is tempting to argue that this is not simply political correctness taken to the nth degree, but that it devalues the democratic process and is actually insulting to women.

The ideal situation, and the most equal, surely, is to have all selections founded on genuine equality.

If the best candidate is a woman, she should win selection on merit, not because of a rule that disqualifies a more suitable man.

Let us be clear about this, there is no suggestion of anybody being press-ganged, no positive discrimination and no favouritism towards a particular sex. All the party is seeking to do is to give members a choice. At the end of the day the best candidate will top the list irrespective of their gender.

This so-called controversy does underline a particular problem with gender politics. That is if we are to get more women candidates then we need to encourage them to put their name forward in the first place. That means considerable work developing and training candidates as well as proper support mechanisms.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats actually have some very good women candidates and a large number of younger members coming through the ranks. My theory in this case is that being a European MP is less family friendly than most other political posts, whilst the possibility of campaigning in a Wales-wide constituency can be quite daunting. It is little wonder than women and quite a few men are not enthused by the prospect. That is why the party needs to improve the back-up it can give to all its candidates.

Meanwhile at a different level the poll bounce I reported on Saturday has started to show itself at the ballot box. And it is Cameron's Tories who have lost out.

The party took two council seats from Tories on Thursday. Timothy Huggan won at Manor, Forest Heath District, Suffolk, where Conservatives were unopposed in May. Whilst a second gain came at Rhiw, Conwy County Borough, north Wales, where Trevor

Liberal Democrats also scored a landslide victory to defend a previously knife-edge marginal at Norfolk County Council’s Aylsham division where the previous contest was on the same day as the last general election. Congratulations to all involved.
"the process has been suspended because none of the five candidates are men"

...And none are women.


An interesting line-up, then, Peter! I wonder who they all are? ;-)

Good points aside from the typo!
> none of the five candidates are men

Should read "... are women"?
I agree with the Western Mail - if women candidates didn't come forward in time to meet the deadline, then that means there won't be a woman candiate. So what. The bizarre notion that the gender that makes up 50% of the population needs special treatment - sme kind of handholding or encouragement - in order to achieve the same level as their male counterparts is ridiculous - obviously no women were interested enough in the job to apply, and it should be left at that.
OK, Ok, I have corrected the typo. Thanks to both for pointing it out.
why would any one put their head above the wall, its not a comfortable place to be, to lead or volunteer for anything in the Lib Dems at the moment.
can't we just get on with selecting now that we had a surplus of candidates at the deadline? we're wasting time.
Valleys Mam: how would you know? You are not even a Liberal Democrat.

Anon 7.07: It is not up to me but the elections are not until 2009 so we have time.
actually valleys mam, it's become quite a good time to be a Lib Dem again.

Would much rather be the new Liberal leader than Gordon Brown anyway ...
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